The Ironman

April 9th, 2009

"I'm crazy," Dr. Klion says. "I jogged in from West Chester this morning."


"Yeah, I'm doing the Grand Canyon Rim To Rim in five weeks. 46-miles, five-thousand feet up and down, then back again."

Now, the whole reason I go Dr. Mark Klion is because he's the best kind of crazy. The walls of his Upper East Side office make it plain. There are just two frames on the wall: one of the Good Doctor crossing the Ironman Kona finish line in 11:12:51 with his daughter on his shoulders, and a smile ear-to-ear; and a D.C. Marathon ...

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House Call

April 2nd, 2009

The city never seemed more hostile.

My office phone rang at 5:47. Caller ID indicated it was my wife calling from her cell phone, unusual for that time of day. I was knee-deep into a twice-delayed annual appraisal, but begged off to answer.

"Hi honey," I said, noting the sound of the street in the background. "You ok?"

"No," she said stuttering. "I'm on the corner with a policeman. I feel dizzy... I..."

"Where are you? I'll be right there."

I was in Times Square within two minutes, power walking uptown to 56th and Fifth ...

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Doctor, Doctor

March 31st, 2009

It's Monday morning in Dr. Lisa Libertore's East Side office.

Four boxes of medium, sterile, powder-free latex exam gloves crowd the Victorian-themed waiting room here on 85th and Lexington. Eight of us wait restlessly, shifting in our chairs, evading eye contact, and tapping at our respective devices.

I fill out a clipboard lousy with forms, scribbling the kind of information only Abbi would know, then wait.

Smooth jazz (CD 101.1FM, I assume) wafts nearly-inaudibly from a stereo behind reception, ironic, I suppose, given that I'm ...

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The Recovery Room

October 1st, 2008

So... the bill for last months emergency appendectomy surgery came yesterday.


Thirty grand!!!

Abbi and I could go scuba diving in Belize six times! We could buy a brand-new Jaguar X-Type! We could put a 5% down payment on a $600,000 house!

The bill's full of interesting stuff, though, like a $219.19 "specimen bag" (presumably the final resting spot for my beloved, 5mm appendix). Or the $1041.86 Harmonic Ace Scalpel (an "ultrasonic cutting and coagulating surgical device" that, vibrating at 55,500 times per second, ...

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The Dust Cloud Disappears Without A Trace

September 30th, 2008

Two weeks ago this afternoon, I was in surgery.

This morning, I was back on the road, running 4.87 miles in just over 51 minutes.

Abbi and I rose in the dark, stretched, and started slow. We ran west towards the river, north along Hudson River Park, then up into Riverside Park.

It felt great to be outside, breathing fresh air, and watching the sky wake up. I had some pain in my right knee (still, three years after that rogue playground accident) for a second, but that subsided once I warmed up. I could feel some tightness in my ...

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Bee Season

September 24th, 2008

For a few hours before my whole emergency appendectomy ordeal, an entirely different health issue was at hand.

Pun intended.

See, I like fire. Always have. Just ask our former neighbor, Ron Wells, who nabbed my brother, Christofer, and I behind the hedges with a can of gasoline, a box of matches and a few hand-crafted tiki torches.

I was eight-years-old.

Still, when it became apparent that Abadfest '08 -- the annual Andover, Vermont-based celebration of singer/songwriter (and all-around awesome dude) Chris Abad's birthday -- ...

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September 21st, 2008

When I woke, my wife, mother, and doctor stood over me like a Holy Trinity.

I tried to speak, but could only gesture to Abbi for a kiss.

I didn't remember anything prior, or have any idea where I was. Through the fog, I heard Dr. Dawson report that the surgery went by the book. The laparoscopy left just three small incisions. My throat was sore (from endotracheal intubation, I would soon learn). I felt like I had to go to the bathroom (from a catheter, I would also painfully learn). But otherwise, I was fine.

I lie there alone ...

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September 19th, 2008

The Lenox Hill's ER was manned by a slight, Russian-speaking security guard.

"Name, age, and ailment," he said handing me a pink slip of paper.

Benjamin Wagner.


I paused at "ailment," puzzling over how detailed I should be. I wrote, simply, "APPENDIX," then took my seat in the dank, crowded waiting room.

An elderly black man, maybe 85-years-old, sat slipping in and out of consciousness to my left. A middle-aged white guy in a softball uniform held his twisted pinkie aloft. A drunken, heavy-set Latina mother berated her ...

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September 18th, 2008

In some strange way, I felt relieved as I strode towards Lenox Hill Hospital's Emergency Room with my plastic bag full of still-wet CAT scans; at least I knew what was wrong, and what had to be done.

It was a strange day from the start.

I'd slept scarcely a wink the night before, dragging myself pathetically from the bathroom floor to the couch to the bedroom, hunchbacked and mute from nausea, vomiting, and flashes of fever and chill, fever and chill. As the sun rose over a new week, it all felt too familiar.

I called in sick, ...

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The Miracle Of Suffering

May 22nd, 2008

"I think you're gonna' have to throw up to feel better," he said matter-of-factly.

The morning began at the iTunes music store. Such is my voracious appetite for substantive public radio podcasts that I'd already burned through "This American Life," "Studio 360," and two episodes of "Fresh Air" on my twice-daily, fifteen-minute commute -- and it was only Wednesday.

Browsing the options -- "A Prairie Home Companion," "Bill Moyer's Journal," "Radio Lab" -- left me cold (maybe because two of the three denied my "Mister Rogers & Me" ...

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